Movie Studio Plays Bait-and-Switch with ‘Dune’ Marketing


Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård portrays creepy Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, shown here in a healing bath after a major plot point in the movie “Dune.” (Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)

Zendaya, left, and Timothee Chalamet in the film “Dune.” According to Forbes, “Dune” has made $300 million worldwide in ticket sales. (Warner Bros. Entertainment/TNS)

By: Andrew Thrift, Sports Editor

The latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel “Dune” is a two-hour and 35-minute space-action-political drama starring Timothée Chalamet as the teen-aged Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family known as House Atreides. But director Denis Villeneuve’s take on the source material is more properly known as “Dune Part 1,” according to an on-screen title, so if you thought you were getting his take on the whole book, you may be disappointed that the film stops about halfway through the events of the novel.

If you were attracted to the film by the widely viewed trailer featuring big-name stars such as Zendaya and Jason Momoa —or even Dave Bautista— you’d be doubly disappointed. Zendaya, for example, gets less than seven minutes of screen time, including voice-over work that sets up a major premise of the story as the movie begins.

As Herbert imagined it, by the year 10,19l the human race has dispersed across the universe, colonizing planets. High-powered families work under the emperor. House Atreides has just gained control of the desert planet Arrakisfrom House Harkonnen. Arrakis has been mined for a “spice” called melange, which the native people, the Fremen, use religiously as a hallucinogen and for multiple life-sustaining purposes.

To the rest of the universe, though, spice is essential for the clairvoyance that is needed for highspeed space travel. The Fremen have suffered greatly under House Harkonnen’s persecution and try to keep to themselves in the desert.

Even before departing his homeworld Caladan, Paul was having vivid dreams about the planet Arrakis, with glimpses of the Fremen character Chani (Zendaya). His dreams get more vivid and scary once he arrives on Arrakis. He dreams of his family’s downfall, the death of his friends and destruction of House Atreides, but also dreams of a shared destiny with Chani.

Rebecca Ferguson gets a lot of screen time as Paul’s mother LadyJessica, a member of the Bene Gesserit, an order of quasi-mystical witches with strange powers. If you watch on HBO Max instead of going to a theater, you might want to put the closed-captions on, because she mumble-whispers through much of her dialogue.

Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. announced on Oct. 26 that they’ll finance “Part 2,” but it will be at least two years before that hits theaters, so if you don’t already know the story and don’t want to be left hanging, you might take a pass on “Part 1.”

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